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Du Fay, Guillaume

Du Fay, Guillaume (b Bersele, nr. Brussels, 1397; d Cambrai, 1474). Fr. composer. Illegitimate son of a priest, took his mother's name of Du Fayt. Known in his early years as Willem Du Fayt, later as Guillaume Du Fay. Choirboy at Cambrai Cath. Went to It. in his twenties and fled from Bologna to Rome in 1428, staying until 1433. Sang in the papal chapel. Met Binchois in 1434. Returned to Cambrai 1439. His connection with the Burgundian court is now thought to have been unlikely. Was most acclaimed comp. of 15th cent. Nearly 200 of his works have survived incl. 8 complete Masses and 84 songs. Use of a secular cantus firmus such as ‘L'homme armé’ in a Mass possibly originated with him. Was basically a conservative comp., but his warm harmonies and expressive tunes anticipate the Renaissance. Undoubtedly his melodic clarity stemmed from his It. years. Composed the earliest Requiem Mass, now lost.

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